Conditions on the 'Home Front' in Keynsham in World War

Conditions on the 'Home Front' in Keynsham in World War

the call to affilS that women undertook men's work, Mrs Gwen Newman said, 'M}' mother w'asone of a group of women who helped the war effort by swee...

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the call to affilS that women undertook men's work, Mrs Gwen Newman said, 'M}' mother w'asone of a group of women who helped the war effort by sweeping the streetsof Keynsham to Hallatrow. Sometimesthe s\\'eeping was follow'edby a mounted horse-drawn barrel of tar, which was sprayed on the road.' Mrs Newman recalled that during Ule \\'ar the huildings on the far South side of Ke}'nsham's workhouse in the (~onygreFarm direction w'ereused for training nursesto help at 'the Front'.

Conditions on the 'Home Front' in Keynsham in World War I am iodebt(~, for the following information, to a man alx)ve reproach, the tall respectedfigure of Mr ,JessieStickler, who hasdistinguished himselfoc)th in the banking professionand as a Meth(>distlocalpreacher.Born in Chipping Sodburv in: October 1902,he w'asonlv six months old when he cameW-lthhis parents'to live at Number (:)ne, Stati(~nR()ad, Keynsham, Next door u) them \\!asthe vicarage, which Mr Stickler declart~dto have a garden of almost two acres,which enc;Qmpassed most of t<:Jday's Vicarage Green, His father, in the leather business,wanted youngJessieto mix \\'ith t.ht~I()(:al children without 'any snohbef}"~and accoroingly sent him to the neighl}{}uring school at Temple Strt~et.'From there 1 went to St George'sSch()()l,u1enI took a degreeat l.ondon University, where I got an Honours degree,a }O~irst, in Bachelor of(~ommerce. The University d{)Csnot offer it now as the banks would not support it, so it died out:' Mr Sti(:kler (:ontinued, 'And of course, bef()rethe busestook all the trade, (:rowdsof people would go do\\'U for the morning train. In thosedays, before the W'ar, you could tell the time by the people who (:aught the trains. JOt~ Bloggs a.lways(;aught the 7.19 and Miss &)-and-S<)the 8.37. lne road wa.-> full of people<:atchingtrains. You would get hundr(~dsbetween7.Wand 9.30 in the morning. 'On someSaturoa}'s, an ev(~nbigger crow'd would (:omeup the road off the 1.00 train for rabbit-a)ursing, down the lane l)(~sid(~ the Pioneerpublic house, and lJeforethe polic~ could stop it, it would be over. Hundreds of peoplecame to that. Of course w'e didn't s(~eit. It was all 'hush hush' and our parents didn't approve of it. But we kn(~w\\'hat wa.'Igoing on.lnC)' were such a rough cf()\\'d and I was only a Ix)}' then.' One imagines that in one of the fields at the end of the lane, one group had rabbits in l)()xes,w'hile another group held dogs. Presllmahly bets had been placed earlier, and at a given signal, one colyectures that [)()th groups of animals were released,w'ith betting on which dog killed first, or on which dog killed most rabbits. Whatever actually happent~, it was obviously a pretty t>cstialaffair. Jessiecont.inu(~d,'If a ('.arcame, we all ran to the door to seeit. y'OUcould hear it coming, as there were no silencersmuch in thoseday'S.It was quite an event, and all the children stoppt~dwhat they weredoing and went out to look, from the triangle outside the chur(:h. Oppt>siteSt John's was the vicarage, which had most of the land where \'icarage Green now is. I t had a w'acking great garocn of almost tw'oacres, I think it. was. 'I recall the busescoming t()(),It was nine pencea return to Bristol, which 144

. was a lot of money in thosedays. Then the Pioneerstarted a bus which would come a minute before the other one. They didn't publish a timetable, but the people supported it against the big concern, the Bristol Omnibus Company. There was quite a performanceabout this. 'I believe the housesin Station Road did have wells, but we had a tap. We lived at Number One, but things are completely different now. There was a path on only one side of Station Road, when rwas a,boy. There was no path on the church side. There was no needfor one. The railway bridge is the same as it used to be, and I used to arrange to be on the bridge at eleven o'clock in the morning to see 'The Great Bear' go through. It ran from down south somewhereright up to Carlisle.' [Bert Robe wrote 'I travelled on a train pulled by 'The Great Bear' several times about 1918-19when it was under test as a stopping train from Swindon to Bristol. But it proved to be too heavy for the 'ExpressTrain' work for which' it had beendesigned.'] 'There was a well up Charlton Road on the left hand sidejust before you came to Charlton Park Road, and you could turn the handle of it until quite recendywhen somehooligansknockedthe rollers off it. I rememberMr Coles, of a leading Methodist family, who had to go there and draw water when West View Road ran short, which they did every now and again. And he found tiny minnows in it,' laughed Mr Stickler. He continued, 'In 1914,Victoria Chapel had decided to start a Scout troop and we youngsterspersuadedour parents to let usjoin. We turned up for the first enrolment and lined up in two ranks in the old church hall at the rear of Victoria, and a chap, one of the J enkinsesI believe, agreed to be the Scout Master. It so happened that he was also in the local yeomanry, I think, and he went off and got killed in the war so we never saw him again. We had all turned up and been told what to do and how to get a uniform, which was the big draw. 'Most of our men went into the North SomersetYeomanry. It was the correct thing, if you belonged to a sufficiendy high social family, to borrow a horse or own one if you could, and join the NS Yeomanry. You used to go offfor a fortnight and have a good time. I believeTubby Loxton was in that. It was a form of the Territorials.' [Bert Robe wrote that' A number of Keynsham young men were in the NSY. In addition to Tubby Loxton there were, to my knowledge,the Stokes brothers, Cyril and Eric, and Mitchell Bond, who was in France in 1914and servedin the Home Guard in World War II.']. I askedJessie about food rationing. 'I lived with my Mother then, and we had halfa pint of milk twice a week. Things got a bit bad towards the end of the First War. . . I well rememberwhen the grocer's boy, who was delivering the groceries,kicked over our half pint of milk. There was consternationin the camp! . 'I was called up at the end of the SecondWar, but it was so near the end that before I could do so we were told not to.' I recalled that the young men were called up first, and that only slowly was the call-up age raised. Mr Stickler agreed,and explained why. 'You see,I was 37 in 1939and if I was reasonably intelligent, I could i)e of someuse [to the country, not conscripted] whereasa 145

. boy of 17 could be dispensedwith.' He thought there1\:.,rere no Zeppelin raids over Keynsham in the war, though my Mother recalled them being picked out by the searchlightsover Streatham, London, and how she and her family had all gone to the windows to look at them. Jessiesaid,.'They were about but we didn"t get any.' 'There were a number of air~raid shelters built in the village, but we did not have one. I lived with my mother then, and we decided that we would die in our beds if we were to die at all. A right decision I think,' commented Mr Stickler. 'I think that most of the bombing that we got was in the Second War, when Bath and Bristol were both bombed. 'There were trams in Bristol and trams in Bath, and when the bus service started, it ran from Brislington, which was the end of the Bristol tram lines, to Newton St Loe, which was the end of the Bath tram way. But they soon found that the buses,which were run by a Methodist or a churchman of some sort, from Brislington, did not go out on Sundays, and nor would the Bristol Tramways, who only did so when they were bound to. That is, they did not have the moral courage not to when the Greyhound came along and ran theirs on Sundays, so the Bristol Tramways decided to run on Sundays as well. As it was 9d to go to Bristol, you thought twice before getting on.' ['The owner of the Pioneer buseswas a Mr William Russett, a"well-known Baptist who was often at the EbenezerBaptist-Chapelin the High Street. The buseswere basedat Barton Hill in Bristol,' recalled Bert Robe.] 'I suppose there was some poverty in Keynsham in the First War, but nothing desperate, nobody starved or anything like that. In those days Temple Street was the down-town area ofKeynsham.' ['JessieStickler is being unduly critical of the inhabitants of Temple Street. Poor many of them may have been, though not all, but there were many worthy people among them. They had a strong senseof "community",' wrote Bert.] Jessiedid not remember the housesin Albert Road being built, but recalled that Martin Gibbon's mother rememberedthere being gatesacrossthe top of the road when it was still a farm track. Mr Stickler continued, 'There used to be more horse transport than cars in those days, and I remember a horse falling down and breaking the shafts of the cart outside our house. This causedconsternation in the camp, too. You see,outside the church, where the pavementat that time was so wiae, was the meeting place for people. That was the centre of Keynsham. It is the Council that has forced the centre of Keynsham down to the top of Bath Hill. In those days you used to get quite a few travelling cheap-jacks,who made their living by doing funny things, and by buying and selling. I 'remember one Doctor selling quack things but he said he must not call himself a Dr. Then I did not know what he meant but later I realised that he had been a Dr who had done something naughty and had been struck off. Somepeoplewould do a bit of conjuring, and then passthe hat around. 'I canjust remember the two upright stone pillars with hooks in them, just outside the church wall, where worshipperswould tie their horses.The pillars were some six foot tall, and the Council later took them away. The Loxtons 146

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. used to come down from Queen Charlton to Victoria Methodist church by horse, and used to put their horsesnear the hut at the back of the church, at 'Stoke's Stables', which usedto sell hay. 'In those days the roads had not been tarmacked and when they were, people did not understand it. I remember a chap with a motor bike and side car coming along the High Street, turning into Station Road, which had just been done half an hour earlier, and his bike went one way and he Went another, and sat himself on the tarred road. 'Before that, they used to have men sat at the side of the roads with a pile of stones,smashing them up. They used to have a thick pair of trousers,with string tied round their legsjust below the knee. Someoneelse would come along to fill up the pot holes and level the road with the stones. That was more skilled work. I rememberthat. 'Whenever I walk by Ronto's, even now, I can't help feeling dust in my eyes. There were clouds' of dust from Bath Road and the High Street and Temple Street. There was no tar on the roads. I still get the sensation now and then. I came out from the car park the other day, near where th~ Lamb and Lark used to be, and I found myself half closing my eyesand blinking. I remember also the water carts spraying the roads in th~ hot weather, to keep the dust down.' Young Jessie Stickler did have a bicycle, but not until the roads had been properly tarmacked. 'Then you could ride a bike alright. We did have a carrier in the village, a Mr Short, of Albert Road I think it was, who would take parcels:and things into Bristol for yo~ for ab_out3d in his van. He didn't take letter-soThen on~ day he went off to America, and I never heard of him again. Rather a pity becauseI usedto play with his son. 'Keynsham was a quiet town, with not much excitement in it that I knew o£ It wasn't a village of heavy drinking. The Wingrove wasnear us, but it was not one of your ordinary Keynsham pubs, but a better-classone. The gentry went there. I remember the village's one bobby, but I kept on the right side of him.' Billeting Mr Stickler recalled that during the First World War, soldierswould from time to time march through K~nsham on their way to the coast.'They would usually stay in the village one night, and a Lieutenant or a Captain would knock at your door and look at your house to seewhat room you had and would then tell you, not ask Y°l), that you would take one or two men for that

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He knew that mules had been assembledon the Conygre Farm fields, adding that 'Some were there for quite a time. Mules and horseswere used a fair bit in the war to start with, together with some London buses, and probably someBristol busestoo.' Jessie gave me the following photo, sited in Keynsham, of some of the wives and mothers of the village, just after the war. Taken by 'Fredk. M Orchard, Photographer, K'm, Som.' it also had written acrossthe back, in ink, 'Keynsham W. Methodist Women's Bible Class circa 1919.' Mr Stickler 147